Recently, scientists in Florida have reported that over 25% of monkeys in a Florida STate Park contain the herpes B virus. According to new research published in Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, rhesus macaque monkeys in Silver Springs State Park have been secreting the virus through their saliva. While the herpes B virus is relatively harmless to the monkeys, scientists warn that if it is transferred to humans it can be deadly.
Several news outlets have already begun reporting on the rising herpes cases among the monkey population in Florida. A study of the virus conducted over ten years has has gained attention and caused several people to become concerned. The authors of the study assure the public that the risk of the virus is low-risk.
“The headlines have already taken off about this, but there’s really a lot we still don’t know about herpes B in wild monkeys,” says study author Samantha Wisely, a wildlife biologist at the University of Florida. The virus is what she calls low-risk, but high-consequence — like rabies, she says. “There’s really a low risk of you getting it, but if you get it, there are going to be very high consequences.”
According to the study, the feral rhesus macaque monkeys are originally from southern and eastern Asia. They found their way to Florida the same way many invasive species settle in new parts of the world. The monkeys were transported either on purpose by humans looking to keep them as pets or by accident in shipping containers on ships. This species of monkey has been inhabiting Silver Springs State Park since 1930 and has continued to multiply ever since.
While the risk of contracting the herpes B virus is low, health officials and wildlife experts are warning residents and visitors to Florida about the danger. State officials say that if you see a monkey, refrain from touching it.
Herpes B virus is a different virus from herpes simplex virus 1 or 2. These are the viruses that cause genital herpes. These two viruses are considered sexually transmitted diseases. If you are concerned about genital herpes, you should have STD testing performed. This can be the best way to determine if you have been infected with the virus.